Thursday, February 09, 2006

A is for Abbot, H is for Hot

I "heart" the internet - to use one of the latest slang terms.
On line one can find historic maps, town plats, aerial maps, street maps, and photos of buildings and monuments.
You want to set a scene around Long Meg and her Daughters? You can find images from all directions, at all times of day, in all kinds of weather.
Writing is sometimes not so much "what" but "which" and I find I have difficulty beginning a scene unless I have the physical geography firmly in my mind - even if I intend to alter it a little at my convenience.
Yesterday I found the photographs and, maps and aerial maps for the location I had chosen.
Sometimes it's difficult to recognize just what word, phrase or approach will settle into the subconscious, until eventually something triggers that "click" that locks the floating particles together, for I know all of you have provided something - but particularly Savannah ( see side bar) and Rick ( found in "Comments" but whose page is neglected)have helped me here.
Yesterday I was "hot to trot" on a new piece.
Mindy (see sidebar) is unimpressed with the idea of beginning a piece with sex, so tell me if this works.

La Belle Dame

"Is that Fiends Fell? In those hills there in the distance?"

The loose white sleeve fell back from her arm as she pointed to the east.

He wanted to take that arm and run his tongue up the length of it, to taste her again.

He gave the distant hills a bare glance.

"Yes, that's it. They call it Cross Fell now. The Pennine Way crosses there."

He riveted his eyes on her face, her body, where he wanted his hands to be.

She stopped and ran her hands over the smooth red sandstone pillar of a waycross beside the churchyard path.

He felt jealous.

The hot May sun glossed her face under that ridiculous, charming hat with the ribbons. A hat perched above her great soft knot of hair - hair that shimmered like a prince's ransom of silver and gold when she let it down.

He knew he was romanticizing again. She affected him like a spell.

He wanted to reach out and unclasp the clip that held it in place and see her hair tumble loose down her back, her breasts, across his mouth...

The wind blew the tail of her gauzy skirt across his legs. It clung like a caress.

His pants felt tight.


One corner of her soft lower lip was folded in like it did when she was amused by something. He hoped it wasn't him.


"Thank you for bringing me here - where ever 'here' is. It's peaceful and open and warm and quiet here by this old church by the river. I hope your sister doesn't mind coping with the calls. I needed this"


He'd driven them away from the media and the whole bloody fuss following the hostage taking and the search parties. To give them a little space after the clinic, his ebullient sister, and that damned cocktail party, to have her to himself.

"Emily was all for it. In the best Lochinvar tradition, my lady - if sneaking out the back way counts - I have brought you to the valley of the Eden and the village of Eden Hall."

She smiled a little at the Lochinvar memory.

They strolled a little further. He deliberately stayed a step behind so he could watch her hips. She was gazing at the sky.

He watched his shadow cover hers.

His groin ached.


Stolen from Erik, wihout shame or remorse, your slang entry for the day:

abbot: "the husband, or the preferred male, of a brothel keeper ( see abbess) 19th c., from the old Standard English terms, abbot of misrule, abbot of unreason, a leader in disorderly festivities."


James Goodman said...

it reads like a good way to start a story to me, but then I am not a very good judge since I am nothing more than a whore for the written word. :D

Savannah Jordan said...

I love the sexual tension, Bernita. Tempting, teasing, just a taste of the heat that we can feel he is suppressing... Well done. :) {I am actually working on a male POV erotica, and it is good to see how another author deals with it.}


Bernita said...

James, thank you. You don't know how much we "wimmin" crave the male writer's perspective on anything involving a male POV.

Thank YOU, Savannah. Some of your short pieces got me in the frame of mind? gave me some clues? I can't really pin-point how, exactly, but you certainly helped.

Savannah Jordan said...

Well, I am glad to have been of assistance, no matter which venue or application! :)

Dennie McDonald said...

The only picky I have is the word "felt" - Dennie cracks the show don't tell whip - I find it so hard to keep my critique hat not screwed on so tight - sorry

I liked it though - Like Savannah said - super tension - good job

Erik Ivan James said...

You didn't steal a thing from me Dear Gal, if I'm the Erik you mentioned. All you did was well...err...ummm...give me tight pants....ahhhhh.

Ric said...

Sex? Sex is a good way to start anything. The day, the weekend, a leisurely lunch, checking the mail, reading Bonnie's blog,...

Now that you ladies have the male POV figured out, just don't use it to an unfair advantage.

Nice Job, Bernita.

Bernita said...

You think it works then, Ric? The split infinitive of his attention?

Who else but you, Erik?'s intended to give female readers wet mind.
You mean it works on the male imagination too?

It's a dicky word, Dennie, but I can't - at the moment - think of another word in keeping with the concise effect.

Thank you very much.

Dennie McDonald said...

He felt jealous. Jealousy pulled at him.

His pants felt tight The zipper of his pants dug into him as he hardened

just a couple of ideas

Bonnie Calhoun said...

*She covers her eyes and peeks out between splayed fingers* Aww, geez, Ric...please tell me you didn't ...I'm going to have THAT picture in my head all day.

*She peeks around the corner* "Bernita...word pictures!!!...Word pictures...~blush~

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Heh Heh.
Aren't we getting a little Chekhovian over here?
All those seething lusts sublimated like crazy in the Cherry Orchard.
--Uncle Vanya.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dennie. I'll think on it.

Isn't that the idea, Bonnie? To get the readers to make the pictures in their minds? Are Ric and I doing it right?
And that was perfectly innocent, merchants!

Bernita said...

Who said anything about "sublimation," Ivan? This is only the beginning...

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Ooh. I can't stand it!

Bernita said...

A cold shower?

Ivan Prokopchuk said...


Erik Ivan James said...

Well, if,...."it's intended to give female readers wet....", and it gave me tight pants, then there'd better be some love-grass around here somewhere.:}

Dennie: No zipper pinches, please!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Erik...eeeekk! Word pictures...where's you wife when your talking like that?...LOL

Bernita said...

Being careful with his zipper, I would imagine, Bonnie.

Thank you, Erik, you're right about zippers. No painful memories should be raised.

Savannah Jordan said...

Love grass?! Puhleez. Next there will be mentions of ploughing.

Sela Carsen said...

I'm with Dennie on the show don't tell bits. And his (her? Yikes!) examples are very good. Instead of just saying "he felt", kind of ease into it. Not just "he felt" but what did he do about it? Did he shift, did he wipe his suddenly sweaty hands on his jeans? Another good way to show rather than is to incorporate all the senses. He sees and he feels, but what is he hearing, smelling, tasting?

From a romance writer's perspective, dontcha know. ;)

ivan said...

And trains going into tunnels.

Bernita said...

I am now confused. You feel there is too much"tell" and not enough "show?"
He's a grown, sophisticated man, not a teenage boy.

Gabriele C. said...

I like Bernita's version better. "Jealousy pulled at him" sounds too dramatic. And doesn't go with Bernita's style and the tone of the scene.

Which made my mind wander into the gutter. But it has a living room there anyway.

Sela Carsen said...

No, he's not a boy, but he seems hesitant in this scene. Maybe I'm reading it wrong -- perhaps he's simply holding back in anticipation. But anticipation has its own set of "tells." Respiration speeds up, skin feels tight, his focus narrows so that all he sees is her.

Bernita said...

Oh, Gabriele, thank you.
Glad it did!
Scene intends to illustrate - as it continues - the sexual confusion/conflict in the on-going relationship between them. She is determined not to be dominated, is unsure about him for a number of reasons, I won't go into here. He considers himself a civilized man and is bewildered by his urge to be primitive with her.
She didn't expect to have a love life again, and he is used to viewing females as a convenience.External events have had their influence as well.
This all sounds quite banal put this way, but there are relationship issues more subtle than I've described.

Bernita said...

Dear me, of course he's hesitant.They're barely into the beginning of a relationship that neither are sure they want and they've just come through a particularly trying time.He is surprised by the scope and depth of his desire.And he made the mistake earlier of being just a little too alpha with her.
I hoped to avoid the usual "breathing heavy" indicators.

Sela Carsen said...

I'm saying, in my too-blunt fashion, that the "he felt" lines are...too blunt. I like Bernita's straightforward style and I think it works, especially in scenes where there's a lot of action, but this scene is slower and introspective -- a chance to show off some narrative, emotional curlicues.

Bernita said...

I always had the impression that when men had sex on their minds that they were not given to too many curilicues, and it is written from his POV, more or less.
I was saving the flourishes for later.

Sela Carsen said...

In the end, of course, if that's how he thinks then there's very little you can do to curlicue him up! I look forward to reading more flourishes in her POV.

Bernita said...

There's often a complaint that male POV's are mismanaged, that romance writers in particular have men thinking like women, or how they wish/imagine men think.
I wish the guys would weigh in on this.
We really want to know.

Gabriele C. said...

I think Sela and Dennis just pointed out a reason why I don't like many romances. What they consider as appropriate language for the genre to me feels flowery and overdone.

His pants felt tight is what I would write as well.

The zipper of his pants dug into him as he hardened for one makes me go 'ouch' and not run for the cold shower, and second, if I find a lot of such Let's Use a Few More Words stuff in a book, it ends up against a wall sooner or later. Show Don't Tell can be overdone.

My personal taste, of course.

Bernita said...

Yes, I want to imply he has an erection, not tell it. Sure his brain is half on his balls, but I'm using almost a semi-stream-ofconsciousness here and I just can't imagine him thinking all of a sudden "oh, my gawd, I've got a hard-on." I wish to suggest she excites him on a constant and slowly growing level.

Sela Carsen said...

Nora Roberts and Suzanne Brockman are two romance authors who are often hailed as being able to get into a guy's head without getting too touchy-feely in the writing.

Bernita said...

I'm glad I posted this.
But I am still confused.
Sela(with Dennie) says( if I get this right) that I'm showing , not telling, when I say "he felt jealous...he felt his pants tighten"
Yet I honestly see no difference between feeling a zipper than feeling tight pants.
I think it's a saw-off. I'd rather not slow down the scene by having him hop-toad around so the reader can figure out that he has (1) fire ants, (2) crotch rot, or (3) maybe an erection.
And it seems overly dramatic and semi-comic ( a note I don't wish to introduce in this scene) to have him glare evilly at the offending pillar that she put her hands on.

Savannah Jordan said...

Okay, I feel like I need repeat my previous statement; for the nuances that seemed lost, "just a taste of the heat that we can feel he is suppressing..." I felt where you were going with that scene, Bernita, I knew what you were trying to, and not to, show. Men don't think like us *luckies that they are* and pithy prose from his pov I think would emasculate him, and take away the sense of hesitation which I you did well in displaying.

Bernita said...

Thank you, again, Savannah.
I wanted to "show" by these various reactions, what I was not "telling", his mental absorption with memory and desire.
Sex (begins) in the mind.

R.J. Baker said...

As a guy, I don't really think of licking the length of a woman's arm.

My thoughts head, uh, south. But maybe given the time, maybe that's close enough.

Groin ache, well, that's right up my alley...

Bernita said...

The time. R.J.?
Oh, I think his thoughts are southerly.

R.J. Baker said...

I perceived it was the Elizabethan era, I don't know why, maybe it was the arm licking thing.

Bernita said...

I don't know why either.
Cars, media, cocktail parties?
Yes, I do.
You only skimmed it.

Dennie McDonald said...

fine {sniff, sniff} see if I ever help again {sniff, sniff} =)

it's all a matter of the feel in ones writing - show don't tell was a big thing I got hammered with in my crit group - I shall go back to my cookies and milk now (kids just got home from school) =)

Bernita said...

Dennie, I am just trying, in my dim way, to understand.
Sometimes people dismiss a piece of writing by the mantra "show, don't tell" without ever considering just what is shown or told.
I've seen passages dismissed as "exposition" by those who feel anything which is not direct action is exposition.
Then one will read that internal monologue as well as dialogue is NOT considered exposition.
Somethings can only be "told", I think.

Ric said...

Bernita, for all the grousing about your tell not show. I disagree with the ladies. I think you got it spot on.

Hands on the pillar - he felt jealous. Could say he was jealous, but yours works as well or better.

pants felt tight. (happens to me every time I hear Gracie Slick sing)

Groin ached. Not something a guy would think - blue balls maybe, but groin? Odd word. But workable.

Those are all guy feelings. You did good.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric.
I appreciate a man's perspective very much.
One of the reasons for choosing "groin" is that sometimes when a sports figure has been kicked in the balls, it is referred to politely as a "groin injury."
And for some reason saying "his balls ached" seemed just a little too blunt for this scene.
I'm very glad you in particular felt it worked.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

An unfortunate typo--is it a typo?--has tricked your meaning in the very first para.
"Is that Fiends Fell? In those hils there is the distance?
Do you mean IN the distance?
Maybe I am a stranger to Victorian usage, but did you really mean to pen those two sentences? So much semantic noise flying around that we really don't know what the hell is meant, especially by the choice of place, Fiends Fell,which could jog minds into associating anything from apocalypse to the way some Englishmen imagine Welshmen to speak, e.g., My sister you will not marry.
Some strange phrase from Broadcasting school I picked up. It is a cartridge phrase, but it works so much better.
Is this the switch for Ipswitch Miss? You could have a woman asking something along the same lines. A mouthful, yeah, but it brings about immediate association besides practising your sibilants.

You could open with a baroque
"Is that where the fiends fell?
Upthere in the hills?"
My dear lady, it's Fiends Fell. It is a town. I can take you to it.

You gotta move it, babe.
You gotta shake it. Sweat your copy
so just what you want to convey is conveyed, not any possible perigrination in the reader's mind.

Ordinarily, people pay for my advice. This is a freebie.

Lord knows I'll somehow be paying for this myself.
Still love ya.


Shesawriter said...

This was very sensual. You have a nice writing style and the pacing was spot on.


Carla said...

Can I add another vote in favour of Bernita's original text? I thought the 'felt' lines worked well and suited the tone and style. I prefer them to the alternative suggestions which I thought didn't fit so well with the rest of the piece (especially the zipper line, which made me wince. Not the intended effect?).
'Show don't tell', like all Rules, isn't necessarily right in all cases and is the devil to define precisely - exactly why is 'his pants felt tight' telling not showing?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ivan, for catching the typo.Went right by me. Stupid error.

Regarding "Fiend's Fell", it's quite deliberate. I have assumed that readers are still current with the practise of recognizing a proper name for a place by capitalization, and I think the geographic clues indicate it is a place, a particular pass. In the hills. The Pennines. And I also assume and expect the usual tolerance and curiosity from readers when a new or unfamiliar location is mentioned.Even if it is outside their own knowledge of geograpgy.

Further, the indication of something fell (pun intended) and supernatural is also deliberate. I want that "perigrination." I intended it.In fact, it's damn well necessary to the tale, as counterpoint, parallel and plot.

Thank you, Tanya and Carla.
I appreciate your comments,
especially considering how much I admire your own writings.

Carla said...

I recognised Fiends' Fell as a place. I think I may have climbed it once. I have a suspicion that it might actually have been named after one of the old gods, subsequently demonised, and then 'exorcised' by having a cross plonked on it and being renamed. It would be a good place to find the Wild Hunt on a stormy night. But I hasten to add I have absolutely no evidence for this.

Bernita said...

I had the idea it became "Cross Fell" because it was a point where one crossed the Pennines.
Re: the Wild Hunt. You're not so far off. There's a meteorological phenonema called the Helm Wind that shrieks down into the Eden Valley from above Cross Fell like demons from hell. Wouldn't be surprised if the Wild Hunt also became associated with it.

Carla said...

Is Cross Fell on a major route over the Pennines? I thought the main ones were Stainmore Pass (aka Bowes Pass), where the modern A66 runs, and the Cam Fell Roman road above Hawes. Maiden Way crosses the hills not too far north of Cross Fell, going from the Eden Valley to the South Tyne, so that could count as a crossing. Cross Fell isn't the nearest hill to Maiden Way but it might be the most distinctive.

Although it's possible that 'cross' refers to a crossing, it would be rather unusual. Ways of crossing hills in northern England are more usually called 'Gap', 'Pass', 'Gate' (Norse for path or road), 'Hause' (Norse for narrow pass or col), 'scarth' (Norse for pass), or 'Rake' (hill or mountain path), occasionally 'Stile' (from OE climbing). In Brittonic the common names for a route through the hills seem to be 'bwlch' (pass; cognate with the Gaelic 'bealach') and 'drws' (door), and the name Rhinogs is supposed to mean 'doorposts' because they rise either side of a major pass in mid-Wales. I can only think of two Cros- names in northern England - Crosby on Merseyside and Crosthwaite near Keswick - but in both cases the 'Cross' element refers to an actual cross. So that's why I'd favour the derivation of Cross Fell as likely to be from a cross erected on the summit, perhaps in the hope of placating or exorcising the fiends that produced the Helm wind. But this is only my thought.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Carla.
That's all good to know.
I took it to refer more to a foot trail than a road, and not having come across references to a cross at the summit thought it might refer to passage.
Fortunately, it's only a passing note in my story so I don't have to rearrange anything, but I might want to use the location at another time.

Carla said...

It's a local folk tale, I think. I've either heard it told there or seen it in a local paper or a tourist board leaflet. The story goes that a Christian priest set up a cross on the summit to get rid of the demons and after that the hill changed its name from Fiends' Fell to Cross Fell. I don't remember the date attributed to the story, if there was one. Medieval I would guess, possibly earlier. Most of the stone crosses on the North York Moors are medieval waymarkers, but Lilla Cross is thought to be 7th C (from the name and the attached folklore) or 9th C (from some analysis of the style of the carvings). So a similar date range for one on Cross Fell would be plausible. If it was intended to exorcise the Helm wind it didn't work :-)
Here's a link to a mention of the tale in case you ever need it, see page 3.

Bernita said...

Thank you very much for that link, Carla!
Maybe I'll have to do a chase or something across the waste after all, because that and the photos I've seen are so very inviting!
I don't have my notes at hand but I have the vague idea that the treasury of Durham Cathedral hosts an 8th c. saxon waycross.

Rick said...

Only belatedly came on this (suddenly your blog won't update till I hit the refresh button), but it reads fine to me!

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